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‘We may need to go even further’: Minister’s warning over rules in COVID hotspots

The government may need to “go even further” and introduce stricter measures to combat a rise in coronavirus cases in high-risk areas, a minister has told Sky News.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Kay Burley there was “a lot of work to do” in the fight against COVID-19 and “we’re going to be living with it for a long time to come”.

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PM’s warning to local authorities

“We may have to go even further than what we’ve announced,” he warned, adding that the government wanted to “design those steps jointly between ourselves and local government”.

But there has been anger among some local leaders, with claims that Westminster has imposed restrictions without adequate consultation.

Mr Jenrick was speaking after the prime minister set out a new three-tier lockdown system for England, with areas given “medium”, “high” and “very high” coronavirus alert levels.

The move, which is set to come into force on Wednesday if MPs approve it later, is aimed at simplifying the range of different restrictions already in place.

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The medium level (Tier 1) will cover a significant part of England and includes the current national restrictions such as the “rule of six” and the 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.

The high level (Tier 2) will see people prevented from socialising with other households indoors, although support bubbles will still be permitted.

In these areas, the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors in public spaces, as well as private gardens.

The very high alert level (Tier 3) will see people banned from socialising with other households both indoors and in private gardens, while bars and pubs will be closed unless they can operate as restaurants.

Alcohol could be served in pubs operating as restaurants in these areas, but only as part of a meal.

Residents will also be advised against travelling in and out of these areas, while it will be up local politicians as to whether other leisure venues such as gyms and casinos should also close.

The Liverpool City Region is currently the only area in the very high alert level.

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How the new lockdown system affects the North

Most of those areas already living under local restrictions – such as Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the North East – will move into the high category, as will Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire, and a small area of High Peak.

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn told Sky News that there was no agreement on the measures for the Liverpool region with the government, instead saying they were imposed on the area.

The housing secretary rejected such criticism, saying that “we did listen” to local leaders and “they influenced the measures”.

In the hours after Boris Johnson’s statement to MPs, newly published documents revealed that a “circuit breaker”, a short national lockdown, was recommended to the government by scientists three weeks ago.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was “concerning that they’ve rejected most of that scientific advice”.

Asked if the government was no longer following the science when it comes to tackling COVID-19, Mr Jenrick said “These are balanced judgements. The scientists advise and ministers, particularly the prime minister, have to make the difficult judgements.

“We’ve chosen to balance taking robust action, with ensuring that education can remain open and trying to protect as many jobs as we can.”

Greater Manchester mayor, Labour’s Andy Burnham, told Kay Burley that he would prefer a national “circuit break” lockdown, adding that he had “serious doubts” that the Tier 3 measures would be enough.

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